Eating a variety of nutritious food during pregnancy ensures that your body gets most of the minerals and vitamins. Folic acid is one such beneficial vitamin during pregnancy. Folic acid for pregnancy is necessary as it prevents various birth defects.
So, when is the right time to commence taking folic acid? How much of it does your body require daily? What are the dietary sources of it? Why is folic acid mandatory for your baby’s health? This guide will tell you everything you must know about folic acid and its benefits during pregnancy.
What is folic acid?
A water-soluble vitamin, folate or folic acid is the other name for Vitamin B9. It is present in in ample amounts in citrus fruits and dark leafy greens. This man-made B vitamin plays a role in producing red blood cells. It will assist in the development of your baby’s neural tube, spinal cord, and brain.
How much folic acid must you take?
For all women of childbearing age, folic acid’s recommended daily dose is 400 mcg. However, folic acid dosage for first trimester varies from the dosage for the second and third trimesters. Have a look at the folic acid dosages for various stages in your pregnancy:
- When you are planning a baby: 400 mcg
- The first three months of your pregnant life: 400 mcg
- Four to nine months of your blissful pregnancy: 600 mcg
- When you are breastfeeding: 500 mcg
Are there any risks of not taking folic acid during pregnancy?
Without sufficient folic acid, your baby may have neural tube defects like:
- Anencephaly: when the baby’s scalp, brain, and scull don’t form properly
- Spina bifida: a condition in which the vertebrae or the spinal cord isn’t fully developed
- Encephalocele: brain tissue protruding out of the baby’s skin through an opening in its skull
Babies with these defects can be permanently disabled or may not survive long. That’s why all women should consciously eat nutritious meals, even the ones with no immediate plans of embracing parenthood. Moreover, 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and the above-mentioned defects happen within the first 28 days of the fetus’s development in its mother’s womb.
Studies have also revealed that taking a folic acid supplement will get rid of the following complications:
- Low birth weight
- Cleft lip
- Poor growth
- Premature birth
Benefits of folic acid for the mother
Folic acid is necessary not just for your baby’s development in the womb. It will decrease your risk of getting diagnosed with:
- Heart disease
- Anemia resulting from folic acid deficiency
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Pregnancy complications (like preeclampsia) during the second trimester
- Some kinds of cancers
When should you begin taking folic acid?
By now, you’ve already discovered the significance of folic acid for pregnancy. As per doctors, birth defects can occur within the initial 3-4 months of your pregnancy. Hence, you must be mindful of what you eat when you are thinking of having a baby in the near future. Women who take folic acid for a year before getting pregnant have a 50% less chance of giving birth to a premature baby.
Foods high in folic acid for pregnancy
Folate is naturally present in many foods. Here are some healthy foods you must eat to get rid of folic acid deficiency:
Beans, lentils, and peas are legumes belonging to the Fabaceae family. The exact portion of folate in different legumes will differ. However, they are all loaded with folic acid. For instance, one cup of kidney beans has 131 mcg of it.
Orange, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are delicious and flavorful citrus fruits. They are rich in Vitamins B9 and C.
Asparagus is a heart-healthy fiber that also contains folate. The amount of folate present in half a cup of cooked asparagus is 134 mcg.
Broccoli is a vegetable well-known for its numerous health-promoting qualities. When it comes to folic acid, one cup of raw broccoli has 57 mcg of folate.
Popular for its buttery flavor, half an avocado has 82 mcg of folic acid. It is also rich in vitamins B6, K, C, potassium, and monosaturated fats.
Arugula, spinach, and kale are examples of leafy greens. They are loaded with nutrients. Every 30 grams of spinach has 58.2 mcg of folate.
A nutritional powerhouse, bananas provide several minerals and vitamins. One medium banana has approx. 23.6 mcg of folic acid.
Doctors advise pregnant women to add eggs to their diet. One large egg will give 22 mcg of folate to you.
85 grams of beef liver contains 212 mcg of folic acid. Additionally, it will meet your body’s daily requirement of vitamin B12, copper, protein, and vitamin A.
Grains like pasta and bread have been fortified to increase their folate content. One cup of cooked spaghetti will give 102 mcg of folic acid to you.
How can you get sufficient folic acid during pregnancy?
Your body will get a certain amount of folic acid from the food you eat. But having fortified grain, citrus fruits, and leafy greens won’t suffice. To reach the doctor-recommended daily level, a vitamin supplement is compulsory.
So, all pregnant ladies should take prenatal vitamins along with a balanced diet. In addition to the prenatal vitamin, your healthcare provider might suggest a folic acid supplement when you are 4-9 months pregnant. Consult your doctor before taking any supplement.
When should you stop taking folic acid?
Wondering when to stop taking folic acid in pregnancy? It is compulsory to take folic acid for the first 12 weeks. Your baby needs it the most in the early days of your pregnancy. By 12 weeks, your little one’s neural tube will be closed. But that does not mean you should discontinue taking folic acid. You should have your multivitamin tablets throughout your journey as an expecting mom.
So, whether you are pregnant or trying to conceive, increasing your body’s intake of folic acid will be wise. You should take a folic acid supplement and food rich in folic acid. Make sure you contact a certified dietician to get a personalized diet chart designed for you and your baby.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the recommended dose of folic acid during pregnancy?
A: As per doctors, your body needs 400 mcg of folic acid every day when you are pregnant. For four to nine months of your pregnancy, the recommended dose is 600 mcg.
Q: Why is folic acid essential during pregnancy?
A: Folic acid during pregnancy is of utmost significance to keep neural tube abnormalities at bay. It also reduces the chances of miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth.